An Interview: Massage & Fitness Magazine’s Nick Ng

by Walt Fritz, PT on April 28, 2017

I met Nick Ng face-to-face two years ago, though he and I had co-existed on some Facebook groups long before that time. He took my Foundations in Myofascial Release Seminar for Neck, Voice, and Swallowing Disorders class in San Diego and, as I viewed him as decidedly science-literate, I was curious how he would interpret my version of myofascial release. Maybe curious is the wrong word; I was a bit worried. My conversion away from being a believer in fascia-based explanatory models was well in place, but I felt myself a bit inadequate explaining the version of myofascial release (MFR) I teach from terminology and explanations more universally accepted by those in the science communities. I guess I passed the test, if there was one, as Nick and I have become friends.

Nick is the editor of the online magazine, “Massage & Fitness” and I would like to thank him for being a part of what I hope will be an ongoing series of articles with people of interest in the manual therapy world.

Walt: Hi Nick, Thanks so much for agreeing to take part in this interview. Would you tell the readers about yourself?

Nick: Thank you for this interview, Walt. I currently live in Long Beach, CA, but I have been a San Diego resident for over almost 33 years. After I graduated from San Diego State University in 2001, I started working as a personal trainer for 14 years before I enrolled in massage school in San Diego, CA, in 2012. 

Currently, I’m working on Catalina Island as a massage therapist and whenever I can, I write, edit, and publish stories and articles on Massage & Fitness Magazine, a quarterly online publication that focuses on the science of pain, touch, and physical fitness in relation to massage therapy and personal training.

When I’m not working, I enjoy salsa dancing, hiking, weightlifting, and dabbling in wing chun kung fu and other forms of close-quarter self-defense.

Walt: What got you started on the magazine? Had you even done writing of this sort in the past?

Nick: I have done this sort of writing since 2009. I started with content writing for fitness, nutrition, and similar topics. Then I expanded into freelance writing and a bit of ghostwriting for a few websites on bullying before heading into online news writing for two groups between 2014-early 2015.

I started the ezine in late 2014 after seeing so many complaints on a massage group on Facebook about the pseudoscience being shared and published — yet no one is doing anything about it. Because I have a background working in newspaper publication and production, I decided to create something that no other American massage publication that I am aware of does, which is to create a medium that focuses on good science and critical thinking in topics and issues relative to massage therapy.

And because of my strong interest in exercise and physical fitness, I added the “fitness” part to the publication. There is much in common and benefit in learning about both worlds since there is some good evidence that both massage and exercise can reduce and manage pain while improving the quality of life.

Massage & Fitness Magazine continues to evolve, and we now incorporate legal and ethical issues, client- or patient-centered care, and a dab of philosophical issues for those readers who like their thinking to be challenged.

Walt:  Many of the posts you make to groups on Facebook, such as the Skeptical Massage Therapist Group, are ones of inquiry. I find this refreshing, as so many Facebook posts seem thinly veiled attempts at self-congratulation and/or self-promotion, but you come across with what seems to be a genuine sense of curiosity and humility. What inspired your move toward critical thinking?

Nick: It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but I’ve told this before to some friends already. What inspired me were my own failings as a personal trainer in the later years of my career. I bought into so many fads and fringy ideas that got me nowhere in my career. They didn’t help my clients lose weight, gain weight, or move better, and it hurt my business.  I don’t plan to repeat my mistakes as a massage therapist.

Also, a few trainers and exercise physiologists called me out once on some of my claims on a personal training forum. THAT was a mind-changer! Around that same time, I was reading “You Are Not So Smart,” by Dave McRaney, and it discussed many topics about self-delusion and the psychology behind it. Philosophy professor Kevin DeLaplante has a series of courses at Critical Thinking Academy which I had followed for over four years.

And the rest is history. I took a couple of courses on Coursera on philosophy, statistics, critical thinking and argumentation, and various history topics, and I continue to learn from critical thinkers in the manual therapy profession like Dr. Jason Silvernail, Dr. Bronnie Thompson, Phil Greenfield, Monica Noy, and Ken Leong.

Walt: Through my own struggle in moving from older, antiquated narratives of myofascial release, I witnessed the pushback from many in the manual therapy community who are fans and followers of more well-known models of MFR. How do you deal with what I see as the anger and defensiveness that therapists of all sort display when critical thinking is presented that can question the accuracy of commonly held beliefs?

 

Nick: I don’t really deal with this issue well, and I let some of my colleagues and friends with more patience and tact to deal with them. However, I do empathize with how they feel because I used to be there for several years. What I’m better at doing is to write, interview, question, and publish good-quality information and stories, whether it’s on the ezine, blog, or another publication.

I no longer try to change minds. I rather let others find out for themselves and let them own their change of beliefs. There is no need to “convert” them.  

Walt:  An article you recently wrote on the Massage & Fitness website titled, “Trapped Cluneal Nerves May Be Primary Reason of Certain Low Back Pain“,  speaks to sources of pain from issues not frequently taught to manual therapists. Entrapment of nerves, specifically the cluneal nerves, as they relate to case of low back pain, is counter to what many of us were taught, as it is often reported to be fascial restriction, trigger points, muscle spasm, an imbalanced pelvis, etc. Do you get much push back from your readers?

Nick: Nope, not at all. Many fans shared the information, and I hope that this would help some therapists change the way they treat and think about pain.

Walt: I was honored that you’ve published a few of my articles in past issues. You have an impressive staff of writers, as well as hosting an impressive list of guest writers from within as well as outside of the manual therapy profession, as well as. Who have been some of your favorite writers/articles?

Nick: Paul Ingraham would be the first on my list because his writings and ideas initially challenged my beliefs. I used to hate him and his content, but not anymore. His commitment to changing his mind, update his content, and dark sense of humour like George Carlin is something I borrow to some of my own writing and thinking.

Other writers within manual therapy and general science and humanities would include:

Dr. Bronnie Thompson, who often writes about the psychosocial aspects of pain.

Jamie Johnston, RMT, who tackles some tough issues in massage therapy in British Columbia.

Todd Hargrove, a Rolfer and former attorney who is able to take complex ideas and put it into simple English for many people — like me — to comprehend.

There are more, but it would take up too much of this interview.

Walt: While many of the manual therapy professions have moved toward an evidence-based model of practice, including my own physical therapy profession, massage therapy at times seems resistant. I know that fitting my myofascial release work and trainings into such a model has been a challenge, to say the least, but there is movement forward. Do you see yourself playing a role in aiding the massage profession’s move into a more evidence-based model?

Nick: I do see myself playing an emerging role in helping the massage profession moving forward in the U.S. I have received emails and comments on social media from massage therapists in Australia, Israel, the UK, and New Zealand who thank me for the ezine’s existence. I have also received some hate mail because we don’t talk about certain subjects that they feel it should be addressed or we don’t share their beliefs. But the latter is getting fewer and fewer each quarter.

However, I couldn’t do this project alone. We have a team of brilliant and caring minds who help me with writing, thinking, and editing process, including Dr. Ravensara Travillian, Dr. Christopher Moyer, Alice Sanvito, Erin Jackson, Monica Noy, Dr. Molly Gregas, Brent Jackson, Heidi Sue Roth, and many more who have contributed.

Walt: In the time I’ve followed you, you’ve become not only a science writer and journalist, but somewhat of a chronographer of science-informed manual therapy education, as shown by your attendance and coverage of some pretty well-regarded recent conferences. Many massage the related magazines already exist, so is there a place for a news model of journalism in the massage and manual therapy professions?

Nick: Oh, definitely. I borrow this concept from our physiotherapy friend Dr. Karen Lizty, whom I call the “Queen of Tweets.” She would churn out dozens of tweets in a minute at conferences. How does she do that?

Also, I use some of the methods I had learned in content writing, science journalism, and satire to create stories. And there are tons of topics about pain, exercise, psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience that hardly any other massage publications talk about. So I want to fill in that gap and see what happens.

Walt: Do you have any new projects or ventures coming up that you want to share?

Nick: Nothing new currently, but I’m already laying out future issues of Massage & Fitness Magazine for the remainder of this year. It’s going to be a little bit different in terms of content and style since we now have a rising interest in science and critical thinking among our fans.

Walt: How can folks get more information about the magazine?

Nick: They can go to www.massagefitnessmag.com for subscription or previous issue purchases. We also have a blog on our site that reviews the latest manual therapy events, controversial topics, and the latest research in pain and exercise.

 

Walt: Thanks so much for taking the time to have this discussion. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Nick: Likewise, Walt. It’s quite an honour to have you interview me on these “touchy” topics.

For now,

Walt Fritz, PT

Foundations in Myofascial Release Seminars

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